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It’s fair to say London can have a reputation for being pricey – but contrary to popular belief, it’s very much possible to have a cheap day out in the capital! From museums to public gardens, there are plenty of free things you can do in London, whether you’re visiting with friends, family or your other half. Here are some of the best free things to do in London either indoors, outdoors or with family, all of which are easy to get to by public transport.
Free indoor activities in London
If the heavens have opened on a family trip to London, you can find plenty of fun indoor family activities in London From free gardens to museums and galleries, there’s lots to keep you entertained.
Located in London’s iconic and affectionally nicknamed "Walkie-Talkie" building, the capital’s Sky Garden is well worth a visit while you’re in town. The indoor tropical garden sits high on the 43rd floor and offers sprawling views of the city below. Sky Garden is one of the best things to do in London, so make sure you book your free tickets in advance. You can also reserve a seat at Sky Garden’s 36th floor Darwin Brasserie restaurant to enjoy some delicious British grub with a memorable view of the Thames.
How to get there: Sky Garden is a 35-minute walk from London Waterloo. Alternatively, take the Northern Line one stop northbound to Embankment. Change here for eastbound District, Waterloo & City (on weekdays only) or Circle Line trains, then hop off at Monument. The gardens are just three minutes from here.
Bankside, London SE1 9TG
For modern art fans visiting London, a stop at Tate Modern has to be on the cards. This popular art gallery features work from some of the most acclaimed artists around today – and the best part is that the permanent collection is totally free to see.
How to get there: Getting here is easy, as Tate Modern is only a 16-minute stroll from London Waterloo.
While London’s Sky Garden tends to hog the limelight, Barbican Conservatory is another stunning indoor garden that’s worth a visit. As the second biggest conservatory in London, this tropical oasis features plenty of leafy green plants and trees, as well as a colourful array of birdlife and tropical fish.
How to get there: Head to bus stop F outside London Waterloo and get on the 76 towards Tottenham Hale. Get off at the London Wall Museum of London stop, then walk for around seven minutes. You could also take the Circle, Hammersmith & City or Metropolitan line to Barbican station and arrive right outside!
Free outdoor activities in London
Come rain or shine, there are plenty of outdoor activities to get stuck into in the capital. And since everything we have lined up is completely free, you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank.
Street art in Shoreditch
You can hardly turn a corner in Shoreditch without coming across some of the most vibrant, edgy and invocative street art in the UK. Featuring work by the world-famous Banksy and more, it’s a great way to check out some free art in a casual setting. Brick Lane is a popular spot to see the murals, while Holywell Lane, Bethnal Green, Shoreditch High Street and The Nomadic Community Garden are also worth checking out.
How to get there: From London Waterloo, catch the Tube via the eastbound Jubilee Line to Canada Water, then hop on the Overground and get off at Shoreditch High Street.
Columbia Road Flower Market
London is filled with beautiful flower markets , and Columbia Road is up there as one of the most delightful. Taking place every Sunday, this long-established flower market is best explored when it first opens in the morning. Browse beautiful blooming flowers in every colour and type you could dream of, and don’t forget to snap a few pictures for the ‘Gram.
Top tip? Head there later in the afternoon for discounted plants and bunches of flowers!
How to get there: Hop on a train to London Waterloo, followed by a 35-minute journey on the 245 bus. Get off at Shoreditch Town Hall and walk 8 minutes to Colombia Road.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
The Changing of the Guard may be a thrice-weekly occurrence, but in true Royal fashion, it’s a fully-fledged ceremony with lots of pomp and grandeur. This procession takes place when the Queen’s Guard finish their time on duty and hand over to the next guard. The ceremony usually involves marching and a brass band, so it’s always worth a watch.
How to get there: Our nearest station to Buckingham Palace is London Waterloo. Once you arrive, take the Tube via the Jubilee Line westbound and get off at Green Park. You could also walk from Waterloo to the palace in 29 minutes, crossing Westminster Bridge with the London skyline as your backdrop.
Public Viewing Gallery at The OXO Tower
There’s nothing better than a good viewing spot for snapping some pics – especially in a city with a skyline as dramatic as London’s. OXO’s public viewing gallery may only be located on the eighth floor, but the building’s position right next to the River Thames promises you some superb views.
How to get there: The OXO Tower is just a 10-minute walk from London Waterloo.
Free things to do in London for Families
Family days out in London don’t have to be expensive. Whether you have kids big or little, entertain the whole crew with these free family activities in London.
If you have younger kids who need to burn off some steam, parks can be an absolute godsend. The bigger the park is and the more activities there is to do, the better – so Regent’s Park comes up tops. Featuring a theatre, boating lake, zoo and playground, this park is pretty much every child’s dream.
How to get there: Regent’s Park is 15 minutes’ walk from Camden Town station, or just a quick tube ride on the Northern line northbound from London Waterloo.
Vauxhall City Farm
There are plenty of city farms dotted all around London, and many of them are free of charge. At Vauxhall City Farm, the kids will be fascinated by the diverse selection of animals, from sheep and rabbits to three adorable alpacas called Ben, Jerry and Tom. The farm also has a family picnic area, so don’t forget to bring a packed lunch if you want to keep your day out as low-budget as possible!
How to get there: From Vauxhall Station, the farm is a gentle five-minute stroll away.
Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station
To any Harry Potter fan, it’s no secret that part of the movie was filmed in King’s Cross Station – but did you know that you can pay a visit the iconic platform 9 ¾? There’s an area that’s been set up for a photo opportunity right in the station’s main hall. Underneath a blue sign welcoming travellers to platform 9 ¾, a trolley protrudes from the wall that Hogwarts students famously ran straight through in the film. Put your hands on the handle of the trolley and smile for the camera to live your best Harry Potter fantasy.
How to get there: You can get to King’s Cross from Vauxhall in only 10 minutes; simply hop on the Tube via the northbound Victoria Line and get off at King’s Cross St. Pancras. From there, it’s just a short walk into King’s Cross Station.
There are so many fun free things to do in London, and they’re all within easy reach thanks to our rail network. Begin planning your trip by exploring our ticket types and choosing the right train tickets for your trip. Don’t forget to see if you could save money with a Railcard or receive a discount for travelling as a group.